In the Internet age, news begins - not ends - when a story is published. Online tools allow anyone, and everyone, to pick it apart and put it back together again in communities, threads, and chat rooms.
That's where the so-called meme trackers come in. These free sites demonstrate the online buzz around news articles, blog postings, or general trends, giving PR pros a chance to see what's brewing online.
Steve Rubel, CooperKatz SVP, calls these sites "watering holes for geeks."
While news search engines like Google and Yahoo keep track of what stories are popping up most in the traditional media, Web sites like Digg and Memeorandum go one level beyond. Digg allows its own community to vote on the most important story to increase its position on the home page, while Memeorandum shows how many blogs are linking to and commenting on a particular story.
"One reason to scan it is because it will give you a sense of where the influential opinion leaders are and what the zeitgeist is," Rubel says. "It's a window into the geek psyche."
Andy Lark, CMO of log data management firm LogLogic, says he checks in with Digg to keep on top of what's being said. Tech companies in particular should ask their PR agencies if they're tracking such things, he adds.
But Lark cautions against expecting Digg to break news.
"A lot of these [Digg'ed] stories are already in the market and the media has already allocated their importance to those issues," Lark says. "[But] it gives you a feel for what's resonating. You also want to make sure your story has stuck in."
Rubel concurs, saying, "The whole model redefines what news is. What's news is not necessarily what's new."
Even though Digg may have more buzz currently, Rubel says that Memeorandum might be the jewel for the PR pro.
"The real potential for PR [in Memeorandum] is that you can begin to see where blog conversations start and where they end," he says.
The more people "Digg" for a story, the higher it rises on the home page
Memeorandum auto-updates every five minutes, adding more blogs that comment on news
Both sites are free, RSS-enabled, and focus on tech issues. Memeorandum has a political section, as well